Season 8 (May 20 - June 1)

May 20 continued: Terror of the Autons Episode One
May 21: Terror of the Autons Episodes Two & Three
May 22: Terror of the Autons Episode Four / The Mind of Evil Episode One
May 23: The Mind of Evil Episodes Two & Three
May 24: The Mind of Evil Episodes Four & Five
May 25: The Mind of Evil Episode Six / The Claws of Axos Episode One
May 26: The Claws of Axos Episodes Two & Three
May 27: The Claws of Axos Episode Four / Colony in Space Episode One
May 28: Colony in Space Episodes Two & Three
May 29: Colony in Space Episodes Four & Five
May 30: Colony in Space Episode Six / The Dæmons Episode One
May 31: The Dæmons Episodes Two & Three
June 1: The Dæmons Episodes Four & Five



May 20 continued: Terror of the Autons Episode One

Season 8 begins with a shot of a circus and a horsebox that materializes with a "wheezing, groaning sound" (as Terrance Dicks might say).  A black-clad gentleman with slicked-back hair and a salt-and-pepper goatee emerges.  "Who the heck are you?" asks a man who saw the box arrive.  "I am usually referred to as the Master," the other man replies.  Yes, the Master has finally arrived.

Actually, there are quite a few introductions to be made in Terror of the Autons.  We're introduced to not only Captain Yates of UNIT (although the dialogue suggests he was around before -- apparently he was in charge of cleaning up after the Autons after the events of Spearhead from Space), but, more strikingly, to Miss Josephine Grant, who is the Doctor's new assistant -- and about as much the opposite of Liz Shaw as you can get.  Jo is rather clumsy but very perky and eager to help.  Even the Doctor doesn't find her a suitable replacement for Liz at first (Liz having apparently returned to Cambridge between seasons), but he can't bring himself to tell her this, and so her position with UNIT is secure.

But it's the Master who dominates proceedings here, as he hypnotizes people, kills others, breaks into a museum and steals an exhibit, sets up booby traps, and takes over a plastics factory, looking cool and collected all the while.  That said, although we find out a bit by watching his actions, there's a really bizarre bit where a Time Lord appears to give a great big info-dump.  We're sort of used to this now, 43 years after the fact, but it really is astonishingly crass.  Time Lords can apparently transport themselves "29,000 light years" and hover in mid-air before giving huge amounts of exposition to the Doctor about how the Master is a fellow Time Lord, but a renegade who always causes trouble and wants to kill the Doctor.  There's a clear implication that the Doctor already knows the Master, or at least knows of him.  But it's odd how the production team clearly wants to get the backstory of the Master out of the way as quickly as possible.  He's clearly set up as the Moriarty to the Doctor's Sherlock Holmes, albeit without as much thought put into him.  Still, in the hands of Roger Delgado the Master is incredibly watchable.

The other thing to note about this episode is how fast-paced it is.  Barry Letts' direction is fairly workmanlike here (even if there is an incredible abuse of CSO in this first episode alone, with all sorts of backgrounds and camera tricks CSO'ed in), but the editing is extremely frenetic, jumping from scene to scene to scene with barely a chance to catch your breath in-between.  It certainly gives things a tremendous amount of energy and hurries them along impressively, such that by the end of episode 1 we go from Jo Grant being discovered by the Master to being hypnotized to opening a bomb in the Doctor's lab, all in the space of five minutes, and with intervening scenes also included.  So far, Terror of the Autons feels more like a 60s comic book than a typical Doctor Who story -- not that that's a bad thing, mind.



May 21: Terror of the Autons Episodes Two & Three

The Master invites McDermott to try one of the new plastic
chairs. (Terror of the Autons Episode Two) ©BBC
The hyperactive editing continues.  But if the first episode is focused more on introducing all the new characters, this one is focused on defining all the ways plastic is made dangerous in the hands of the Master and his allies the Nestene.  This means that we jump from plastic chairs smothering their occupants to hideous troll dolls strangling people to policemen who are really Autons in disguise (this last part supposedly getting writer Robert Holmes into a bit of trouble with the real police). And we also cut from location to location, with the UNIT lab, the plastics factory, Farrel Senior's home, and a circus all on prominent display.

The storyline itself isn't incredibly exciting -- it's all about the Master's efforts to kill the Doctor and anyone who gets in his way -- but the sense of energy engendered by both the edits and the performances more than makes up for this.  It moves at such a clip, in fact, that's in only in retrospect that you think how odd it is to have a story that takes place at both a plastics factory and a circus -- although the link such a pairing creates is rather tantalizing as one tries to work out what these two settings have in common.  As I said last time, this feels like a comic book with all the extraneous bits stripped out in favor of getting to the absolutely necessary/exciting stuff.  It should also be said that this energetic, comic-book-like feel is helped by the quite lurid color palette on display (an effect which might be exacerbated by the color restoration process, but I rather doubt it -- note how the title sequence appears to have been tinted magenta for this story).

Episode three continues in this vein.  We've got a fight in a quarry (with an impressive tumble from Terry Walsh as he's hit by a car), sinister Autons in giant smiling masks handing out plastic daffodils (shown to be dangerous even if we don't know how yet), the return of the killer troll doll, and an extra-long killer telephone cord installed by a telephone engineer who turns out to be the Master in disguise.  Against that we get an outrageous scene where the Doctor chews out a rather combative civil servant, threatening to mention him to his boss at "the club", before both parties end up looking rather sheepish about the whole thing, and Mike Yates trying to make cocoa for himself and Jo in the Doctor's lab.  It must be said, Richard Franklin as Mike Yates looks rather uncomfortable for most of this story, when he's called upon to do anything more than take orders from the Brigadier.

And finally we should note Dudley Simpson's score.  It sounds like he's been asked to deliver a purely synthesized score, which veers from quite effective (the theme that the Master gets, for instance) to weirdly intrusive (as with the bit where the Doctor and Jo hide from the Autons in the quarry).  It's not the first time he's done a score like this (Fury from the Deep features a similar approach to the music), but in this case the combination of the non-organic music and the previously-discussed visual style means that this, too, contributes to the non-natural feel of the serial.  This is a case where all the pieces are working together towards the same goal.  We'll have to see how it finishes up in the final episode.



May 22: Terror of the Autons Episode Four / The Mind of Evil Episode One

It doesn't take the Doctor long to be freed from the telephone cord the Master trapped him in last time; the Brigadier comes in and pulls the cord from the wall and the signal is cut.  It takes a little longer, though, to figure out how the daffodils are activated and how they kill people.  And yet when the Doctor does figure it out (via the near-asphyxiation of Jo), that plot is curiously abandoned.  Oh sure, the Master refers to it as part of the invasion plan, but beyond that, nothing.  We certainly don't see people around the nation being killed by plastic-squirting daffodils, which is really what this plot needs.

The Autons attack the UNIT forces. (Terror of the Autons
Episode Four) ©BBC
The main draw to this episode though isn't killer daffodils but rather an actual meeting between the Doctor and the Master.  Before they've been dancing around each other but never in the same room together; this episode fixes that.  Of course, it seems like the Master has the upper hand for most of the time: holding the Doctor and Jo at gunpoint, leading them to the coach where the Autons are waiting so as to prevent an air strike, preparing the radio telescopes for the arrival of the main Nestene force...really, it's only the fact that the Doctor convinces the Master that the Nestene will kill him too, leading the Master to (briefly) switch sides to send the Nestene packing, that ends up thwarting the invasion plan.  And then the Master escapes, leading the Doctor to callously say how much he's looking forward to their next meeting of death and destruction.  The git.

As a four-part introduction to the Master, Terror of the Autons works quite well; placing him at the center of a known threat and putting him in control of that threat is a good move.  Yet I find that this is a story that's easier to admire than it is to actually like.  There are lots of memorable and effective scenes, with some fun one-liners (such as the Master on McDermott's death: "He sat down in this chair here and just slipped away"), but it doesn't quite cohere into something substantial -- there's nothing really to sink one's teeth into. About Time described it as "the visual equivalent of four packets of Skittles", which is probably the best summation of this tale.  It's fun while it lasts, but there's not much beyond that.

But now we turn to the first episode of The Mind of Evil (or The Mind of Evul, if you're looking at the spine of the region 1 DVD).   Unlike, say, The Silurians or Terror of the Autons, there are no existing off-air color copies of The Mind of Evil.  Now, episodes two through six have been color recovered in the same manner as parts of The Ambassadors of Death, but when they made the black-and-white film copy of The Mind of Evil Episode One, they added a filter that got rid of the color pattern.  Consequently, this first episode has been manually colorized by Stuart "Babelcolour" Humphryes, who's done an absolutely sterling job.

We move from shenanigans with Autons and radio telescopes to a fortress prison, where a brand-new method of execution is being performed.  Except the condemned isn't killed; instead all the "evil" impulses in his mind59 are drained away into something called the Keller Machine (after its inventor, Emil Keller), leaving the person with only good thoughts.  The Doctor seems rather worried about this idea (not to mention condescending; his constant asides to Jo during Professor Kettering's explanation are awfully rude, even if they are entertaining), and it would seem he's right to be.  People start dying around the machine, apparently based on their greatest fears; so a man who's afraid of rats dies from a heart attack, yet with claw marks all over his face and neck, while Professor Kettering himself, who's afraid of water, drowns to death in a completely dry room.

Meanwhile it seems that UNIT is handling both security for the World Peace Conference going on in London and transportation for some sort of missile.  Clearly they've got their hands full, so when the Chinese delegation, in the form of Captain Chin Lee, keep raising a fuss, it doesn't help matters any.  It seems that important papers have been stolen and Chin Lee is holding UNIT personally responsible.  "More trouble," the Brigadier says as she leaves.  "Mmm, pity," Yates replies.  "She's quite a dolly."  Sigh... Mike Yates, ladies and gentlemen.  But then we learn that Chin Lee is under some form of control, and she in fact took the papers.  It's therefore extra-suspicious that, when she calls UNIT to inform them that the Chinese delegate has been murdered, there seems to be almost a half an hour gap between when she discovered the body and when she called UNIT.

And meanwhile, the Doctor is left in the room with the Keller Machine when it starts to go off, at which point the Doctor appears to be engulfed in flames...



May 23: The Mind of Evil Episodes Two & Three

Good thing Jo's around to save the Doctor from imagined fire, even if he seems rather ungrateful for the rescue.  Still, we learn why the Doctor saw fire (though Jo apparently didn't; this will be a bit curious when we get to the resolution in episode three of the next cliffhanger, where everyone sees the pink dragon); he had recently visited a world which "just disappeared in flames" -- undoubtedly a reference to Inferno, which Don Houghton also wrote.  It's still a nice bit of continuity though.

But there's no time to deal with the Keller Machine, as the Doctor is needed to investigate the Chinese delegate's death.  This leads to a nice little moment where the Doctor and the new delegate, Fu Peng, converse in Hokkien, much to the Brigadier's bemusement.  Of course, it does mean that we're already poking fun at the Brigadier's expense, but at least in this case it arises naturally from the situation.  It's perhaps more alarming to hear the Doctor refer to Mao Zedong as a personal friend -- you'd think Mao's policies would be the antithesis of everything the Doctor stands for.  But in any event, the Doctor soon surmises a link between the previous delegate's death and the deaths seemingly caused by the Keller Machine at Stangmoor Prison.  We learn that Captain Chin Lee is the link, and that she's been used by the Master.  Yes, we got an episode without him (and the Radio Times didn't spoil the surprise), but he's already back, being chauffeured around while smoking cigars and listening in on UNIT phone conversations.  He's certainly a lot more suave in this story than in Terror of the Autons (and considering how suave he was in that, that's saying something), and interestingly, the story, with its three separate storylines (the prison, the World Peace Conference, and the Thunderbolt nuclear missile), snaps into focus.  And while we've been primarily following the Peace Conference thread, an attempted takeover of Stangmoor by the inmates takes place, with Jo still inside.  But that's not the cliffhanger: instead we have Chin Lee, under the Master's orders, attempting to kill the American delegate by transforming into a giant pink dragon...

The Master hooks the Doctor up to the Keller Machine. (The
Mind of Evil
Episode Three) ©BBC
It's clear in episode three that the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Fu Peng, who burst into the room in time to save Senator Alcott, can all see the pink dragon -- hence the curiosity of Jo not seeing flames at the start of the previous episode.  Our heroes also discover the telepathic transmitter on Chin Lee, and the Doctor quickly figures out that this is the work of the Master.  But here the focus shifts from the Peace Conference back to the prison (with an occasional sidestep to the Thunderbolt missile -- at one point hilariously represented as a photographic backdrop that Benton urgently gestures at).  Jo manages to thwart the inmates' insurrection, thanks to a distraction from Barnham (the convict with all the evil sucked out from episode one) and some quick moves of her own; she can definitely hold her own.  So much so that the Master travels in person to Stangmoor, posing as his alias Dr. Emil Keller, just so he can help the inmates take over the prison again and lay a trap for the Doctor, who's also returning to Stangmoor.  There's a really wonderful scene where the Master and the Doctor are merrily chatting away with each other, with the Master holding the Doctor at gunpoint the whole time.  You get the sense not just that these two are old adversaries, but also that Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado share a deep rapport that extends into their acting.  Great stuff.

And then the Doctor attempts an escape, but he's quickly recaptured by the Master, who hooks him up to the Keller Machine and turns it on...



May 24: The Mind of Evil Episodes Four & Five

The Master's fear is made manifest. (The Mind of Evil
Episode Four) ©BBC
It's slightly muddled by later dialogue (which seems to suggest that the Master wanted the Doctor's help all along), but it looks like the reason the Doctor isn't left to be killed by the Keller Machine isn't because the Master needs him, but because the Keller Machine is growing so strong that it's affecting everyone in that part of the prison: we see prisoners slumped over, and even the Master has to struggle to overcome its effect.  The really interesting moment of this, therefore, is that we get to see the Master's fear: the Doctor, larger than life, laughing mockingly at the Master.  It's not a moment that's dwelt on, but it gives us a fascinating insight into the Master's character.  Not bad for only his second story.

But as a result of his ordeal with the Keller Machine ("You wanted to know how long I could hold out against that machine.  Well, the answer is I can't.  Nobody can"), the Doctor slips into his third coma in six stories.  It's probably not intentional, but this is starting to become the defining characteristic of this Doctor; consider, after all, the number of times the first and second Doctors went into self-healing comas (none for Hartnell, once for Troughton in The Wheel in Space) and then compare it with the third.  Of course, this does lead to director Timothy Combe's lovely dissolve from the Doctor's unconscious face to the Master's worried one, about ten minutes into episode four.

And this is the episode where the third major plotline comes into play: the Master has a plan to hijack the Thunderbolt missile, conveniently being transported right past Stangmoor Prison.  This, it seems, is why the Master has taken Stangmoor over.  And, oddly, the Doctor doesn't seem the least bit surprised by this development -- as if it's perfectly natural for the Master to try and steal a missile that up to this point has had nothing to do with the plot (at least as far as the Doctor is concerned).  But we do get an exciting setpiece as the prisoners attack the UNIT escort, leading to Sergeant Benton with a head trauma under a van, and Captain Yates with a wounded hand but still enough resolve to follow the stolen missile on a motorbike.

However, even with a stolen nuclear-powered missile full of nerve gas in the Master's possession, the focus of the cliffhanger is still on the eponymous Mind of Evil, the Keller Machine.  We learn that not only is there in fact a living parasite inside the thing, but that it's grown strong enough to teleport around, killing people (and presumably feeding off their "evil") in the process.

The first part of episode five feels like a bit of a delaying action.  We don't learn anything new and nothing of note happens, beyond the Brigadier working out that Stangmoor is the likeliest place for the Master to be operating from.  Well, that's not completely fair; the Master does tell Yates how he was able to capture the missile (with a nice line from the Master near the top of the scene: "All right, Captain.  You can stop pretending to be unconscious now"), but that's about it.  Oh, and we're introduced to UNIT's Major Cosworth, who's clearly intended to be an upper-class "traditional" style of officer, designed to be a contrast with the more practical Brigadier.  But he's so earnest and honest in how he goes about his business that you can't help but like him, even when he's unintentionally treading on the Brigadier's toes.  It's a shame he was never brought back.

Mailer threatens the Doctor's life. (The Mind of Evil Episode
Five) ©BBC
Another thing worth noting is how, after getting the Doctor to help him control the Keller Machine by threatening Jo, the Master's attitude toward the Doctor becomes awfully deferential.  He seems eager to help the Doctor with his plan, and the impression given is less of someone forced to rely on his archenemy for assistance and more that of two friends working toward a common goal.  It's another intriguing look into the Master and the Doctor's relationship.

But what the whole episode is building toward is UNIT's efforts to retake Stangmoor, as the Brigadier heads undercover with a handful of picked men to infiltrate the prison, thus avoiding having to lay siege to a fortress.  Meanwhile, Benton takes some men to a secret passage that leads directly into the prison (er, yes...).  It's fun to see the action sequence, and we also get to see how good a shot the Brigadier is, as he picks off a number of prisoners with deadly accuracy.  But all the commotion has led Mailer to take the Doctor and Jo hostage, to aid his escape -- and when Jo attempts to knock Mailer down, Mailer grabs Jo and points his gun at the Doctor: "I warned you.  I only need one of you."  And then we see the gun go off!  Now that's a cliffhanger.



May 25: The Mind of Evil Episode Six / The Claws of Axos Episode One

Well, turns out it wasn't Mailer's pistol going off; it was the Brigadier shooting Mailer.  What a cheat of a resolution.  Although full marks to the Doctor's ungrateful response: "Thank you, Brigadier.  But do you think that for once in your life you could manage to arrive before the nick of time?"

The parasite inside the Keller Machine. (The Mind of Evil
Episode Six) ©BBC
It's an odd episode, this -- particularly for a closing installment.  Rather than a race against time to stop the Master's evil scheme, the attitude here is one of mopping up.  There's still the matter of the Keller Machine and the Thunderbolt missile, but the Doctor thinks he can stop the former and the Brigadier is confident he can handle the latter.  It's only a curious conversation between the Master and the Doctor, where the Master agrees to take his dematerialization circuit in exchange for control of Thunderbolt, that really sets the final act in motion.  And since the Doctor has learned that Barnham causes the parasite inside the Keller Machine to go dormant, he can use that to his advantage.  So a plan is formulated where the Doctor will distract the Master long enough to get the Keller Machine out and near him, and then blow them all up with the abort function on the Thunderbolt missile (once the Doctor can reconnect it).  The most curious part of this, though, is the Doctor's willingness to leave the Master to die, at the mercy of either the Keller Machine or an atomic explosion.  It seems rather out of keeping with how we like to think of the Doctor typically behaving.  In the end, it's only the intervention of Barnham (who apparently can't bear to see someone suffer) that saves the Master's life, leaving him to escape with the dematerialization circuit after callously killing Barnham by hitting him with a car.  And then the episode ends with the Master taunting the Doctor over the telephone: "So, we won't be seeing you for quite some time," the Doctor says.  "Not for quite some time.  But one day, I will destroy this miserable planet and you along with it.  Goodbye, Doctor.  Oh, by the way, enjoy your exile." 

It's a bit of a curious story overall.  There are times when it feels like Doctor Who's answer to a James Bond film (and it's been three years since their last attempt, 1967-68's The Enemy of the World) -- particularly the bit with the missile and the Peace Conference -- but these get interspersed with the stuff about the Keller Machine, which is a lot more like a B-movie.  These two approaches are both fine, but they never quite gel together to form a cohesive whole.  Still, it looks great, and there's enough incident here to keep the audience happily entertained.  And the Master firmly establishes himself as a threat in his own right, even more so than in Terror of the Autons.  This alone makes The Mind of Evil worth watching.

Next up is The Claws of Axos and the debut of the "Bristol Boys" (as Terrance Dicks nicknamed them), writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin.  It certainly starts promisingly, as a strange golden ship flies through space, being tracked by UNIT radar, with (presumably) weird red tentacled monster-like creatures aboard (fandom often describes them as "spaghetti bolognese monsters").  But then we cut to an incredibly officious chap from the Ministry of Defence named Chinn, who is clearly earmarked to be as obstructive as possible throughout this story, and Peter Bathurst (last "seen" in The Power of the Daleks as Governor Hensell) plays him in such a way as to engender no sympathy in the viewers whatsoever.  And add into the mix Paul Grist as an American agent (presumably CIA, but it's never explicitly stated) named Bill Filer who's there to discuss the Master (in case we'd forgotten about him since last week), and we have a mix ripe for conflict.

Into this situation comes the golden spaceship, apparently called Axos, which lands on the southeast coast of England near the (fictional) Nuton Power Complex, after Chinn tries and fails to shoot it (Axos, not Nuton) out of the sky.  "There are freak weather conditions over the whole area... Sudden snowstorms, sir.  Dense fog's covering the area," Corporal Bell reports, in order to explain the ludicrous filming conditions experienced by the location crew.  So we're treated to the amazing sight of the tramp named Pigbin Josh cycling through snowy fields, looking through trash piles and mumbling incoherently to himself.  It looks an awful lot like they've decided to insert part of an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus into this thing (and the fact that David G. Marsh, playing the second radar technician, bears a resemblance to Terry Jones doesn't help this any).  His story ends when a glowing yellow tentacle ensnares him and drags him into Axos.

Our heroes, on the other hand, are invited in.  Here we really get to see the interior of Axos, which looks a lot like the designers have decided to take full advantage of this new color system Doctor Who is being made in, so we get rather creepy organic textures painted in lots of lurid shades of red, purple, and gold.  The other thing we see (not that the Doctor and company know it yet) is that Axos is holding the Master prisoner.  So, "not for quite some time" translated to roughly 18 minutes or so then.  (Or a week and 18 minutes, if you want to think of it in terms of the original broadcast.)  We find this out because Bill Filer (who's around because of the Master, remember) decides to go investigate Axos on his own and gets captured.  "Who are you?" Filer asks the man he's there to help track down.  What, did UNIT not even provide a photograph of the Master?

The Axons themselves appear to the Doctor's party as golden-skinned humanoids, there with a promise of limitless energy and power in exchange for a bit of power to refuel their spaceship.  Somewhat naturally, the Doctor seems suspicious: "And yet you still ran out of fuel?" he asks after the properties of the Axons' gift, a substance called axonite, are described.  But Chinn is more blinded by the thought of limitless fuel for England.  We'll have to see how that works out for them in future episodes, though, as episode one ends with a shot of the hideous spaghetti monster appearing in front of Jo Grant, who naturally screams as a result.



May 26: The Claws of Axos Episodes Two & Three

It's a bit odd; other than a couple moments where Axos scans humans to find out about them, and the indication that they're lying about their sales pitch to the humans, there's no real indication that Axos is in fact malicious -- but episode two just assumes that of course they're bad and trying to take over/drain the planet.  But the only thing preventing worldwide distribution of axonite is that Chinn has taken charge, hoarding the supply for Britain and locking up all the UNIT people and anyone who might disagree or spill the beans.  He really is easy to dislike, isn't he?  And note that it's not just the audience that feels this way; even his superiors seem rather annoyed with him, warning him that it's his "head on the block" if things go wrong.

We also learn that it was the Master who told the Axons to come to Earth, that it would be a planet perfect for their needs.  Of course, now they're holding him hostage to make sure everything works the way he said it would -- only things aren't going their way, so they have to release him so that he can tell the rest of the world about axonite.  Apparently there's a "best by" date on axonite, and it needs to be as widespread as possible.

But the main thrust of this episode is the Doctor's effort to learn more about axonite, which he ultimately does (after a number of arguments with Winser about the best way to go about it, which leads into some guff about time travel) by sticking it into a light accelerator and having it analyze itself -- only this apparently causes the axonite to activate early, which means that the Axons have to shut it down before it's too late.  But this causes the Doctor to realize that axonite is the same stuff as Axos which is the same stuff as the Axons -- they're all the same: "Don't you see we're dealing with one single living creature?  Axonite was just the dormant state until I activated it...  This stuff could endanger the entire world!"

An Axon attacks two UNIT soldiers. (The Claws of Axos
Episode Three) ©BBC
Episode three might be the best one so far, even though the Doctor and Jo spend most of it captured inside Axos, where the Doctor is interrogated about the secrets of time travel.  It seems Axos wants to have all of time to feed on, and that's why they've been holding the Master prisoner. But he's free and, having told the world about axonite (via a hypnotized UNIT radio operator), he's now waiting inside the Doctor's TARDIS.  Which means we get our first look inside the TARDIS since The War Games -- and our first look at the redesigned TARDIS console.  Only, bravely, they've shown it in a state of disrepair, as the Doctor has clearly been tinkering with it trying to make it work.  "But what does he think he's doing?" the Master despairs, looking at all the loose wiring on the console.  "What a botch-up!"  (And even when he's made some repairs, he's still unhappy with the results: "Oh, hopeless!  Overweight, under-powered old museum piece!... You may as well try to fly a second-hand gas stove!")

But Axos has determined, meanwhile, that if they absorb the output of the main nuclear reactor at Nuton, they'll have enough energy to achieve time travel.  And since all of Axos is connected, they send an Axon into the heart of the reactor to absorb that power.  Once the Master realizes what's happening (and that he can't escape from Earth), he decides to work with UNIT to stop Axos before it's too late -- and with the Doctor gone, they have no choice but to go along with it.   His plan is to store the nuclear energy in the Doctor's TARDIS and then send it all to Axos in one go, overloading it.  "What else can we do?" asks Hardiman, the director of the complex.  "Oh, nothing very much.  Oh, I suppose you can take the normal precautions against nuclear blast, like sticky tape on the windows and that sort of thing," the Master replies marvelously.  There's just one problem with this plan: as the Doctor and Jo are still being held inside Axos, when it goes up they go up with it.  But as the Master says, "Either we destroy Axos or Axos destroys the world."  And so the Brigadier has no choice but to let the Master proceed...



May 27: The Claws of Axos Episode Four / Colony in Space Episode One

Axos is tearing itself apart, with lots of psychedelic lights and overlayed figures floating around as the Doctor and Jo try to escape.  Jo is in sheer hysterics -- so much so that the Doctor slaps her to bring her back (well, that's what it looks like; it's admittedly a bit difficult to tell for certain, what with all the flashing lights and superimposed images, but careful viewings would seem to indicate that a slap does occur).  But it's not the end for Axos, as they manage to redirect the power back into the light accelerator and save themselves -- but at least Jo and the Doctor manage to escape in the confusion.

Once free, the Doctor explains that "the claws of Axos are already deeply embedded in the Earth's carcass", but that he might be able to stop Axos before it activates the axonite and consumes the world -- only he'll need the Master's help.  Except inside the TARDIS the Doctor admits that he doesn't have a plan, and he wants the Master's help in order to get the TARDIS working so they can both escape.  The Doctor certainly seems earnest enough when he discusses this plan -- enough so that you worry that he might be telling the truth about things.

The Doctor brings the Master back to Axos. (The Claws of Axos
Episode Four) ©BBC
Meanwhile, Axos is coming to life, so Yates and Benton (who've been watching it) have to fight off attacking Axons as they make their escape.60  And while that's going on, the Doctor reveals his plan and dematerializes with the Master in the TARDIS -- only to rematerialize inside Axos.  Apparently the Doctor wants Axos's help to overthrow the High Council of the Time Lords (the first mention of this piece of Doctor Who mythology), so he's willing to give Axos the secrets of time travel in exchange.  But not really (did you think he would?); he's actually putting Axos into a time loop that they'll never be able to break free from, and he's willing to sacrifice himself to do so.  The ruse is successful and Axos is time-looped; the Doctor boosts the circuits in the TARDIS and manages to break free (whether Axos would be able to do the same thing isn't addressed), although it's pretty clear that the Master escaped before the loop was activated.  Still, Earth is saved, even if while the Doctor was away Axos overloaded the light accelerator, which blew up and destroyed a lot of the building it was in.  (Let's be charitable and assume that the nuclear reactor at Nuton which powered the light accelerator was somehow unaffected by the surge and explosion, or else everyone's happily wandering around a heavily radioactive area with no concerns whatsoever.  Although the next time Bob 'n Dave do this, we'll be less forgiving.)

In many ways The Claws of Axos is a pretty workman-like story; there's an interesting big idea at its core (aliens give Earth a gift that turns out to be a Trojan horse), but it's buried beneath layers of what one might call "typical" Doctor Who -- so, e.g.,  the Axons are naturally evil, and they attack soldiers more when it's time for some action in the episode rather than because it makes logical sense.  There's nothing really that new or unusual here -- even the Doctor working with the Master scenes had been done in The Mind of Evil (though to be fair they're better in this story).  But then, overlayed on top of that, are some really lovely alien designs (both the gold-skinned Axons and the spaghetti version) and some trippy psychedelic effects inside Axos -- certainly the interior of Axos is more wonderfully strange than anything we've seen thus far (or will see again until arguably Terror of the Zygons in 1975).  It's these things that help make The Claws of Axos a little more than a bog-standard story -- not to the standard of a true classic, mind, but enough to make it worth your while to watch.

The next story, Colony in Space, opens with the Time Lords gravely concerned about the actions of the Master: he's stolen a file about a doomsday weapon, and it seems only the Doctor can stop him.  But to do that, the Time Lords will have to send the Doctor to a different planet and a different time.  So after a brief discussion with the Brigadier about the Master, the Doctor and Jo enter the TARDIS and are forcibly transported away, Jo refusing to believe anything the Doctor has said about the TARDIS in the meantime.  (What, did she forget about everything that happened at the end of the last story?  Mind you, she also seems to think that the colonists left Earth in 1971.61)  She's therefore quite surprised (and a little alarmed) to learn she's on the planet Uxarieus in the year 2472.  And look!  It's the first alien planet we've seen since The War Games, and Jo Grant's first trip in the TARDIS.  Or, as Arthur Dent might say, "'this is the first time I've actually stood on the surface of another planet . . . a whole alien world . . . !  Pity it's such a dump though.'"  Yes, it's another bleak BBC quarry, and without black-and-white film to help give it a sense of atmosphere it just looks like a lousy desolate world.  Still, better than nothing, even if they've screwed up the TARDIS materializing/dematerializing effect since the last story.  (Oh, and the TARDIS doors open with the Dalek door sound effect too.)

And on this world are a bunch of colonists struggling to survive; apparently their crops refuse to grow, and nothing they do seems to change that.  The Doctor thinks there's an external force at work, but that's not the only problem: giant lizards have been spotted, and one of them attacks and kills two of the colonists.  Although the Doctor is suspicious: if the lizard was really twenty feet tall as it was described, how could it have gotten into the colonists' dome to kill them?  But then another person is discovered, from a previously unknown colony, who describes how his colony was destroyed by giant lizards, which would seem to lend credence to the lizards' existence, even though no one had seen them until very recently.  (Or, as Mary Ashe puts it, "There's no animal life [on Uxarieus], just a few birds and insects.")  But when the Doctor goes back to the Martins' dome to investigate the attack, he's set upon by a terrifying robot...



May 28: Colony in Space Episodes Two & Three

So what was the point of the Time Lord sequence at the beginning of episode one?  Was it to assure viewers that the Master would drop in at some point, just be patient?  Because by the end of episode three there's still no sign of the Master or any sort of doomsday weapon.

Instead what we do get is two episodes of politicking as the Interplanetary Mining Corporation "arrives" and tries to convince the colonists to leave.  Even though their colony is failing, they're all on the brink of starvation, and they were discussing leaving last episode, now they don't want to leave.  And it's not like IMC are exactly above board with their dealings: it becomes clear they've been around for a while and are behind the lizard attacks in an effort to drive the colonists out.  But really, none of their villainy is particularly imaginative; the lizards are a nice touch, but then they try to kill the Doctor and do things like literally chain Jo Grant and a man named Winton to a bomb in order to dissuade the Doctor from testifying against IMC when the Adjudicator arrives to decide which group gets the planet.  Oh, and they've got a man on the inside (Norton is IMC, it turns out) who doesn't actually do a very good job of blending in -- even Jo Grant looks at him suspiciously.  And his whole "destroy the generator and blame it on the Primitives suddenly going crazy" plan doesn't seem very well thought out either, even if the colonists seem to swallow the story.  Mind, it only seems to take the Doctor a few moments before he's convinced that Norton is working for IMC, but when he warns Winton ("Unless you want IMC warned, I'd keep a very close watch on our friend Norton"), do they immediately grab him and lock him up somewhere?  Not obviously -- let's hope that doesn't come to bite them in the ass.

Jo is captured by the Primitives. (Colony in Space Episode
Three) ©BBC
The main problem is that the colonists are so thick sometimes that it's hard to root for them, and the IMC people are so evil that they might as well be wearing signs.  This might be acceptable if something interesting happened, but instead we get a lot of people talking and not a lot of doing -- to the point where the Doctor has to hop out of a car and fight some Primitives just to inject some action into the proceedings.  The Primitives are just about the most interesting thing on display so far, and all they've done is wander around silently.

Actually, that might be the main problem so far with Colony in Space -- we're finally, after a season and a half, away from Earth and on an alien world (even if it's just about the dullest alien world ever), and they take up the time by having two groups of humans squabbling with each other, rather than by exploring this world and the native inhabitants.  And since the squabbling isn't even particularly interesting to begin with, the result is that these first few episodes just plod along.  The one bright spot in all this (other than the Primitives) is Caldwell, the IMC miner with a conscience.  By giving us one person who's not willing to act villainously, we get some glimpse of hope that maybe things will turn out unexpectedly.  And it doesn't hurt that Bernard Kay is doing a good job of portraying a man conflicted between greed and Doing the Right Thing.  But he can't carry the whole story (nor should he have to), and so what we're left with is still awfully tedious.

Things can only get better, right?  Right?



May 29: Colony in Space Episodes Four & Five

Thank goodness for the Master; his arrival improves things immensely.  Now everyone has someone they can react against, even if the Master is pretending to be an Adjudicator from Earth, ready to settle the dispute between the colonists and IMC.  That dispute suddenly comes into focus as both sides plead their case.  Roger Delgado is as watchable as ever, listening calmly to both sides, after which he declares an adjournment while he ponders the situation, threatens the Doctor in the back room, and then immediately comes back out and announces that he's reached a decision in favor of IMC.  Guess that didn't require much thought, did it?

The Guardian of the Primitive city. (Colony in Space
Episode Four) ©BBC
The other good thing about episode four is that the Doctor has gone into the Primitive city to rescue Jo Grant, and so we learn more about this civilization and how they were once an advanced race before some sort of tragedy happened that reduced them to their current savage state. There also appear to be three races: the Primitives, the smaller Priests ("Is it humanoid?" the Doctor asks Jo about, essentially, a small man with a weird head; "No, not really," replies Jo -- the speciesist), and their leader, a tiny figure called (in the credits, at least) the Guardian.  The Guardian seems to be the only one who can talk, and honestly he (she?) seems like a reasonable person, even if he/she threatens the Doctor and Jo with death if they ever return.  The whole city in general is an interesting design, with lots of rock-like textures and blacks and green on display, and a welcome contrast to the more muted tones of the colonists' domes.

But as I said, the Master has ruled in favor of IMC.  This displeases the colonists, so they stage a rebellion by luring the IMC officers to the main dome under the pretext of signing official paperwork.  And have the colonists been keeping close tabs on Norton?  Of course not, so he gets to warn the IMC personnel as they arrive, leading to a shootout.  And in the confusion, the Master is prepared to kill Jo and the Doctor -- victims of "stray bullets"; only Ashe's arrival saves them from this fate.

Episode five has the colonists winning this struggle and ordering IMC to leave Uxarieus.  The Master appears willing to help them declare independence -- it's not clear what his ultimate goal is, but he does want to explore the Primitive ruins.  The bits with the Master are reasonably entertaining -- as is the Doctor's investigation of the Master's TARDIS.  Even if Jo spoils it all by suddenly deciding she's impatient and walking all the way across the TARDIS to trip an alarm beam that she knew about on her way in (in even more flagrant a manner than Zoe in The Mind Robber), which leads to the Master gassing them both.  Meanwhile, IMC leaves, works out the Master is an imposter, and then comes back, capturing all the colonists and ordering them to either leave the planet or be killed.  It's not very exciting, to be honest, even if it does eat up a lot of screen time, and the stuff with the Master is far more interesting.  He's very interested in the Primitive city, and once he learns that only the Doctor has been inside and come back out, he forces the Doctor to help him -- lest Jo Grant be killed.  And when Caldwell and Morgan make their way inside the Master's TARDIS (via a dropped key) and discover Jo imprisoned, the Master is alerted.  "I warned you, Doctor!" the Master says, his finger poised to flood Jo's chamber with deadly gas.



May 30: Colony in Space Episode Six / The Dæmons Episode One

The Doctor kicks the Master's remote control out of his hand, and before the Master can reclaim it they're both captured by the Primitives -- and thus Jo Grant's life is saved.  And now the Master is inside the Primitive city, which means he can finally gain access to the Doomsday Weapon we were told about at the very beginning of this story.

The Master illustrates the uses for the Doomsday Weapon.
(Colony in Space Episode Six) ©BBC
Actually, this episode is probably the best of the six, because it moves at a decent clip on account of having to wrap up two separate storylines (the colonist/mining one and the Primitive city one) in the span of 25 minutes.  Some of this is a bit perfunctory, such as the scenes with sending all the colonists packing, but even with this we get some nice moments, such as Captain Dent surveying the empty dome after the colonists have left and tearing down their crops chart in a fit of pique, or Winton and an IMC guard having a knock-down-drag-out in a wet clay pit, resulting in one of Doctor Who's more realistic-looking fights.  And given how this storyline has been proceeding, having the colonists' spaceship actually taking off and exploding in the air is a surprising moment, and all the more welcome for it (in terms of plotting at least -- not (necessarily) in terms of wanting all the colonists dead).  With the colonist storyline wrapped up, the Primitive city stuff is finally fully explained by the Master, who's looking to use their ultimate weapon for himself.  Interestingly, he offers the Doctor a share in the power -- illustrating the respect he clearly has for the Doctor, even when he's been trying to kill him off earlier.  It's only when the Guardian intervenes, telling the Doctor to set the self-destruct mechanism, that the Master's plan is foiled.  Then when they emerge from the dying city (along with Jo and Caldwell, who went in after them), they're surrounded by IMC troops who are then themselves surrounded by the colonists, who snuck off the spaceship when IMC wasn't looking.  The Master escapes in the confusion, and soon the colonists win and everything ends happily...unless you're a Primitive.

The main problem with Colony in Space is that it's simply too long.  If they'd made this a four-parter and introduced the Master at the end of episode two this might have been all right.  But instead they've given Malcolm Hulke six episodes and he turns in a story in which the colonists and IMC trade the upper hand every episode (odd, this; usually Hulke is a lot better at filling his stories out).  With a colony totally devoid of interest and an IMC crew that's been neutered against the director's wishes (Morgan was originally going to be played by actress Susan Jameson until BBC Head of Drama Serials Ronnie Marsh overruled Michael Briant's decision), there's far too much time wasted with dull power struggles and not enough on the far more interesting Primitive city.  The point of the colonist story (corporations are evil and ruthless -- admittedly a more radical idea in 1971 than now) is made early in episode two and then reiterated ad nauseam, and the Primitive city is only given prominence in episodes four and six.  The result is a rather tedious runaround, and the first real clunker of Jon Pertwee's run.

But now it's time to turn our attention to the last story of season 8: The Dæmons62.  This first episode is a bit of an odd one: it starts with the Doctor dismissing Jo Grant's belief in anything magical or occult ("You know, really, Jo, I'm obviously wasting my time trying to turn you into a scientist") and then spends the rest of the time with the Doctor trying to stop an archaeological dig because a number of occult signs are lining up ("Aquarius?  The Devil's Hump?  Beltane?" the Doctor mutters to himself), with no scientific explanation (or even technobabble) given.  It's just off to Devil's End to stop Professor Horner because a white witch named Miss Hawthorne said so.  Well, all right, it's not quite that simplistic, but it sometimes feels like it.

And then there are strange goings-on in the village of Devil's End (the first "outsiders aren't welcome" village of the 70s, and only the second ever after The Smugglers -- and note Bert the Landlord's reaction to the Doctor if you need proof), with strong winds, unexplained deaths, and police constables temporarily turning homicidal.  It would also seem the vicar has disappeared -- but this one can be explained, as we see that his replacement, Mr. Magister, is in fact the Master.  Clearly evil things are afoot, and the ceremony the Master is carrying out is clearly designed for mischief, ending as it does with a gargoyle's head moving and the Master crying out "Azal!  Azal!"  Although, entertainingly, during this ceremony the Master throws up the horns during his invocation.  All right, clearly he's meant to be summoning the devil or some such and thus is using the sign correctly, but it's still fun to see.

So the Doctor tries to get to the dig to stop Horner from breaking into the Devil's Hump, but he's juuuust too late, and Horner and the Doctor are blasted by what appears to be snow as the ground begins shaking violently.  This could be an issue... but we'll have to wait until next time to learn more.



May 31: The Dæmons Episodes Two & Three

The Doctor's in a coma again (the fourth one for this incarnation), and Jo is in hysterics.  The Brigadier can't be reached, so Benton and Yates decide to take matters into their own hands and fly a helicopter to Devil's End.  When they arrive they find some giant hoofprints (which, as everyone points out, change size when viewed from the air versus the ground), and then Benton gets beaten up by an invisible force after rescuing Miss Hawthorne, who's been tied up and placed in a trunk by the verger for no obvious reason whatsoever.  Then the verger is killed by something, which also sets up a giant heat barrier around Devil's End that no one can penetrate.  It all seems to be magical, but then the Doctor wakes up and is confident that it's not, even if he's not giving out explanations quite yet.  But his learning that the Master is involved ("Jo, did you fail Latin as well as science?  Magister is the Latin word for master!") seems to confirm some of his suspicions, and another visit to the dig site confirms the rest.  Only Jo and the Doctor are then set upon by a living gargoyle...

Episode two (which is also the 300th episode of Doctor Who) doesn't have much in the way of plot advancement, concentrating instead on ensuring that all the pieces are in their proper positions.  So Benton and Yates are in Devil's End with the Doctor and Jo, and the Brigadier and any UNIT backup is stuck on the outside of the heat barrier.  And Miss Hawthorne is stuck in a trunk so that Benton can hear her, rescue her, and then be assaulted by something that appears to be supernatural rather than scientific.  The whole episode, in fact, is ensuring that everything looks supernatural indeed -- so it's making sure that the audience's mindset is also in the proper position, ready to be debunked by the Doctor in episode three.

The Doctor explains the Dæmons to Miss Hawthorne, Benton, Jo,
and Yates. (The Dæmons Episode Three) ©BBC
And episode three does in fact give us some explanations that aren't rooted in magic.  Well, sort of.  The Doctor's explanation, that the Dæmons (here pronounced with an [e] sound, identical to the name "Damon") are an ancient race with incredibly advanced science that left their mark on humanity in the form of horned gods, devils, and all sorts of black magic -- and so when the Master is using invocations to summon the Dæmon that's been sleeping in the Devil's Hump, he's just tapping into their science -- sounds scientific but isn't actually that different from "it's magic".  And when the Doctor scares away Bok the gargoyle with a magical-sounding incantation and a trowel, he's tapping into Bok's fear of that same science.  You might notice this as essentially being Clarke's Third Law ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"), but it does give them a fig-leaf to keep doing "magical" things with this scientific, ultra-Rational Doctor.

But if pseudo-explanations aren't up your alley, there are still some nice action sequences, such as Yates's fight with the unusually strong and resilient Girton (the implication being that's he tapping into some of that Dæmon science, thanks to the Master), and the subsequent car/helicopter chase between the Doctor and Jo in Bessie and Girton in the UNIT helicopter, which blows up in the heat barrier thanks to a last-minute swerve by the Doctor -- albeit one which throws Jo clear, injuring her in the process (entertainingly, the novelisation has the Doctor wondering why she didn't buckle her seatbelt).  And there's also the Master's effort to place the entire town under his sway, which at times looks like attempted mass hypnosis but ultimately seems to be an effort to persuade them that his position is right; and when that doesn't work, he summons Bok to kill Squire Winstanley in front of them.  If you can't make them see it your way, make them fear you, I guess.

And then the Master summons the Dæmon Azal into the cavern below the church, which causes an earthquake and leads to the Master being worried that Azal will crush him underfoot (underhoof?) -- a bit of an odd cliffhanger, as it requires the audience to be worried about the fate of the Master, the villain of the piece...



June 1: The Dæmons Episodes Four & Five

Episode four exists in its original 2" video format (the other four episodes are color-restored from NTSC off-air copies), and the difference in picture quality is palpable.

The Doctor on a motorbike. (The Dæmons Episode Four) ©BBC
So Jo's off to the cavern for some unclear reason (mind, she is suffering from a concussion at this point), while the Master manages to convince Azal not to step on him.  Then we finally get to see Azal for ourselves and learn some backstory about him, such that he's the last of the Dæmons and that Earth (or possibly humanity) is an experiment being run by the Dæmons, and that they destroy their experiments ("Remember Atlantis," Azal cautions, which nevertheless just about allows for the possibility of life continuing afterwards, as seen in The Underwater Menace -- even if it does weaken Azal's argument slightly).  So it's more that the Doctor's explanation last episode is confirmed here.  Azal agrees to consider giving the Master his power, and that he will appear once more and decide then, thus setting the stage for the final confrontation.  Then later, Jo enters the cavern and finds Yates there looking for her -- but when someone else comes in they duck down behind the world's worst hiding spot: a thin wagon wheel that couldn't hide a mouse.  Yet, incredibly, this appears to shield them from the view of all the coven members (and the Master!) standing ten feet away.

There's also some stuff with the Doctor trying to explain to Sergeant Osgood how to break through the heat barrier, and an attempt to shoot the Doctor by Bert the landlord as he's returning to Devil's End, but the really memorable part of this episode is the Maypole/Morris Dance sequence -- which starts idyllically, even if, amusingly, people keep shutting their windows and pulling their young children inside as if this was some great horror, but then actually does turn sinister when they trap the Doctor and then threaten to burn him as a witch.  It's only Miss Hawthorne's quick thinking (along with Benton's help -- who's really a crack shot, it must be said) that saves the Doctor, by declaring him to be the wizard Quiquaequod (geddit?) who's there to help them all.  But then they're all distracted by the Master's summoning of Azal for the third and final time (by using, as is well-documented, the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb", only backwards).

Azal prepares to kill the Doctor. (The Dæmons Episode Five) ©BBC
Episode five isn't all that exciting, to be honest.  Once Azal is back he spends his time standing around waiting for the Master to sacrifice Jo to him, for some reason (it's not like they need to sacrifice someone to summon Azal, and later events (seem to) make it clear that a sacrifice isn't necessary to transfer power, so it's not clear what the Master is playing at here), while Bok stops anyone from entering the church.  Still, at least the Brigadier manages to get through the heat barrier, even if the machine that the Doctor was going to use to defeat Azal blows itself up.  But at least UNIT is there to try and fight Bok -- which leads to possibly the Brigadier's most famous line, as he orders a soldier to shoot at Bok: "Chap with the wings there... five rounds rapid."  The Doctor meanwhile makes his way past Bok and into the cavern, where he tries to convince Azal to leave peacefully.  That fails, and then the Doctor refuses to accept Azal's powers -- so Azal decides to destroy the Doctor.  But when Jo offers to be killed instead of the Doctor, Azal suddenly goes into computer meltdown mode ("This action does not relate.  There is no data.") and blows himself up, along with the church (a famous model shot at the time, but a bit ropey-looking these days).  The Master is captured (for real this time!) and everyone lives happily ever after, as evidenced by all the dancing and the long pull-back from the maypole to the entire village green.

At one point in time The Dæmons was said to be the greatest Doctor Who story ever.  Then once people saw it again its reputation took a tumble, and many declared it to be the worst story ever.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  There's nothing really wrong with this story (other than the ending) beyond being self-indulgent -- it does look like the cast and crew enjoyed themselves while making this, and some of that happiness comes across on screen, making things a lot more entertaining to watch than, say, The Web Planet.  Really, the main issue, such as it is, is that Barry Letts (who cowrote this with Robert Sloman under the pseudonym "Guy Leopold") has decided that the third Doctor is first and foremost a man of science, but then he's tried to put him inside a story about magic -- with some gestures towards saying, "No, it's science, really" but not really following through on them.  The result is that there's an odd tension going on in The Dæmons between these two schools of thought, and although Letts and Sloman try to come down on the side of science, they don't do a very good job of it.  Still, there are some good performances and it's paced well, and while that aforementioned self-indulgence can grow a little tiresome at times, in general they keep things watchable.  And it's not like the audience knew ahead of time how abrupt and perfunctory the resolution of the serial would be63.  So it's not the best thing ever, but it also hasn't aged quite as badly as is sometimes said.  Really, with hindsight it just looks like typical Pertwee fare.

So season 8 ends on a bit of a duff note, but for the most part they've done a reasonable (though not outstanding) job with this batch of stories.  You can tell that Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks are getting more comfortable with the show, even if they're starting to chafe at the "exile" format (a format, remember, which they inherited from outgoing producer Derrick Sherwin).  The introduction of the Master gives them a reason for alien invasions and such to keep affecting 1970s Earth without stretching credibility too far (you know what I mean), even if he's really overused by appearing in every story of the season.  But it's hard to gripe too much, since Roger Delgado is so magnificent in the role.  It's not a groundbreaking season and there's no major shift of emphasis -- unlike before, this season feels essentially the same as the last, only with extra bits added to change things around a little.  Even the trip to an alien planet has a feel of being more of the same, just in a different location.  But the ratings (which have been starting to go up again) suggest that that's what the audience wants, and there's enough here that's "new" to make it still worth doing.  Season 8 is a bit of a qualified success, but it's a success nevertheless.

So things are working out for the show again; now, can they keep it up?









Footnotes

59 Given that the idea of evil being an actual, measurable substance tends to go against a lot of what we're told in Doctor Who, some have suggested that "evil" in this case is another word for "testosterone".
60 All right, let's discuss the backdrop/sky issue here.  As Benton and Yates are fleeing, shots of them from inside the Jeep appear to have what might be a dark backdrop placed behind them.  It's sometimes suggested that this might be a CSO cloth that nothing was keyed in over, as a) the color doesn't match any of the long shots of the sky, and b) the lighting in the Jeep makes it looks like they're inside something, not out in the open.  But no, we're told, no CSO work was ever attempted or even planned on film, so this can't possibly be a CSO backcloth and instead it's just a weird color of sky.  Except it doesn't look like sky (although, compounding the problem, there are some similar shots which do appear to be the sky -- but it's not the same shade as the controversial shots).  Fair enough on the CSO issue (particularly since it doesn't look like a very useful shade of blue to chromakey out), but given that the last time Michael Ferguson directed a story (The Ambassadors of Death), we had another unconvincing backdrop placed in the windows of vehicles, can we not just consider the possibility that hanging sky-colored cloth in vehicles is Ferguson's method of (say) hiding the fact that the background isn't moving when the vehicle allegedly is?  It's also a bit odd that no one seems to bring up this issue in The Ambassadors of Death -- though that might be because the scenes in question have only recently been restored to color.
61 It's sometimes suggested that if you flip the order of The Claws of Axos and Colony in Space so that Colony is first, a lot of these issues go away.  The main problem with this theory is that at the beginning the Doctor is explicitly attempting to "bypass the Time Lords' homing control", which he only found out about at the end of The Claws of Axos.
62 You can blame director Christopher Barry for the inclusion of the ash (that's the name for the symbol æ) in the title -- apparently he thought it gave the story extra atmosphere.
63 It's so abrupt, in fact, that one of fandom's more successful April Fool's jokes involved the "reveal" that there had been a sixth episode filmed but which hadn't aired because it was too controversial -- a story which more than a few fans swallowed.